Literary Dispatches from London-Charles Dickens
It’s Friday night and the final stop on our pub crawl along the Thames was my favorite pub of the night. Not only was it my favorite because of the history, it was also my favorite because of its connection to Charles Dickens. It’s called The George or the The George Inn, and it was established in the medieval period. The first map of the area circa 1543 had the site of the pub/inn marked, and it has been in continuous operation for over 470 years.
Just sit back and think about that for a moment. In the United States, the average restaurant fails within the first two years and most are gone within five. We live in a largely throw-away society. In contrast, this establishment has been around as Kings and Queens rose and fell, empires grew and contracted, international borders changed and World Wars were fought. This establishment began less than fifty years after Christopher Columbus sailed across the ocean blue. When I think about that, it’s remarkable to me how warped our perception of time and history has become in the age of Twitter and 24 hour news.
The George Inn was once one of many such inns in the area. It is now owned and managed by the The National Trust, (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/george-inn), and it is the only remaining galleried coaching inn in London. A galleried coaching inn was a place where travelers could stop, take care of their horses and carriages, rest, and then continue their journey. In addition, the galleried coaching inns often had a courtyard as well as a place to eat and drink on the ground level. People staying overnight at the inn were often entertained by acting troupes that would perform in the courtyard, which they’d watch from the balcony.
We know that Charles Dickens visited the George Inn, and it is mentioned in his novel Little Dorritt. The novel is a satire, and takes a sharp, critical aim at debtors prisons. Some folks consider it to be a very personal book, because Dickens’ father spent time while he was a child in the same debtors prison featured in the book.
Besides the history, do you know what else is remarkable about the George? It’s just quite simply one of the coolest pubs I’ve ever seen. It’s tucked inside an alley and it’d be easy to walk right by without giving the place a second thought. Then you walk a little further and there is life and ale. Standing in the courtyard, I then walked over to the same hatch that I imagine Charles Dickens visited on a regular basis. I order my pint (actually a half pint at this point in the evening, because I did still need to get home safely) and soak it all in.
Cheers to you Charles Dickens, a writer who somehow managed to write gripping, page-turning novels that also brought forward the contemporary issues of the day. It’s something that I truly admire. Fiction can be more than a story. Fiction can be more than an escape. Great fiction works on different levels, and, if a reader is open to it, a novel can help people understand humanity and society in a different way.
JD Trafford is the award winning author of six novels, including “Little Boy Lost” which has sold over 100,000 copies worldwide. His latest best-selling legal thriller “Without Precedent” is available right now. You can learn more about or purchase J.D. Trafford’s books at https://www.jdtrafford.com/the-books